This spring, in April, Robert Bernasconi (Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of Philosophy and African American Studies, Pennsylvania State University) and Ramona Rat (PhD in Philosophy with the thesis Un-Common Sociality. Thinking sociality with Levinas) will be giving a graduate course titled Levinas and the Vulnerability of the Self (7,5 ECTS) at Uppsala University.


Robert Bernasconi

Picture Ramona

Ramona Rat

Course description

Emmanuel Levinas is widely recognized as one of the primary sources for the current interest in the notion of vulnerability, especially as it is found in philosophy and psychology. Levinas understood vulnerability as an extreme passivity located on the body. He argued that in order to generate an account of ethical responsibility one needed to recognize vulnerability not only in pain, but also in enjoyment. The course will proceed by close readings of the two texts in which Levinas set out this idea of vulnerability in most detail: “Without Identity” (1970) and Otherwise than being (1974). These are among his most difficult writings and so the readings will be accompanied by lectures designed to make Levinas accessible to students unfamiliar with his philosophy.

Primary texts

Emmanuel Levinas, Existence and Existents, Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press, 2001. (Selections designed to introduce Levinas’s account of the duality of the self and the me).

Emmanuel Levinas, “Without Identity.” In Humanism of the Other, Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2003, pp. 58-69 and 74-76.

Emmanuel Levinas, Otherwise than being, The Hague: Martinus Njhoff, 1981, Especially “Saying and Subjectivity” pp. 45-59; and “Sensibility and Proximity” pp. 61-129.

Even if your French is rudimentary, it will be helpful to have a copy of Emmanuel Levinas, Autrement qu’être ou au-delà de l’essence (Livre de Poche, 2004.)

Course Schedule

Session 1, 13 April, 10.00-13.00, room 2-0026, Engelska parken

Session 2, 16 April, 10.00-13.00, room 2-0026, Engelska parken

Session 3, 18 April, 10.00-13.00, room 2-0024, Engelska parken

Session 4, 23 April, 13.00-16.00, room 2-1024, Engelska parken

Session 5, 26 April, 13.00-16.00, room 2-1024, Engelska parken